TABLE GAMES REVIEW: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Board Game

Joss Whedon’s seminal television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, turned twenty this year. The show became a trend-setter and inspiration to many and turned the “girl in the horror movie” trope on its head by giving that girl supernatural powers. Earlier this year, Lynnvander and Jasco Games published a new co-operative board game set in the world of Buffy. Players team up to save Sunnydale from the Big Bad. Does it capture the essence of the series? And is it any good? Well, you’re about to find out what we thought.

Official description of the game:

Into every generation a slayer is born: One girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer. Help Buffy the Vampire Slayer protect Sunnydale from the forces evil in this fully cooperative board game.

  • Publisher: Lynnvander / Jasco Games
  • Number of Players: 1–6
  • Play Time (Approx): 60 mins
  • Ages: 10 +

We are big fans of co-operative board games and we own and have played a number of them over the years. Since Amy is a massive Buffy fan, this seemed like it could be an excellent addition to our collection.

The game is priced at around £35 and the box is packed full of cards and tokens that feature some stunning artwork of characters, artefacts and more from the television show. The quality of the components is good as well and there’s no chance of this feeling like a cheap tie-in. One element of the game’s components that we really like is the inclusion of four action tokens which each player has in addition to their character’s token and information board. Using these (flipping them over) makes it easy to keep track of how far through a turn the game is.

Buffy Components

A selection of the game’s components

The folks at Jasco Games have put together a “how-to-play” video which runs through the basics of the game – you can check it out at the end of this review, but we’ll go over the basic mechanics here. In simple terms, each turn consists of players performing four actions. These are performed sequentially, all players taking their first action then all players taking their second etc. This mechanic helps to keep the amount of “dead time” between players actually playing to a minimum.

As an action, players can fight to stun or kill a demon or vampire in their area, they can move to any other location on the board, they can search for new items, use a location’s ability or perform a special action. When the Special Action is used, an event happens which places townies (who need rescuing), vampires and demons on the board as well as possibly adding another factor to play.

Speaking of characters, the game comes with an odd selection – Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles all make sense, but rather than keeping with the feeling of the show and using the strong female characters, the developers decided to use Angel and Spike as the fifth and sixth characters. I can understand one of these ex-evil vampires being present, but surely one could have been replaced with say Anya the vengeance demon for example? This would have created a 50-50 balance between male and female characters and been a bit more in-keeping with the show’s pro-female vibe.

Player Area

Giles has four Items in hand

Master Revealed

All Clues Revealed – Players can Attack The Master!

It also seems that there is a bit of an imbalance in character’s special abilities as well. For example, Willow becomes an unstoppable powerhouse if she has a couple of magic supplies to hand (and she starts the game with one). Xander has the useful ability to give another player his action. Using these two characters effectively could – we feel – make the game less challenging … provided the event cards aren’t too terrible of course! There are mechanics in the game that can limit these effects – Willow can use magic supplies to heal wounds on the apocalypse track and there are events that require supplies be discarded, for example, but in our first play through, Willow had one set of supplies all the way through to victory.

The mechanics of the game are simple. There are a few different items, each of which have specific uses – stakes kill vampires, weapons kill demons and garlic stops a vampire entering a location, for example. This limited number of items may seem to limit the world-flavour of the game a bit but actually the mechanics work well and help keep the game flowing. After a round or two, everyone will know what items are used for.

Buffy Game In Progress

The Scoobies (Giles and Willow) defend Sunnydale

Buffy Apocalypse Track

The Apocalypse Track advances …

The players lose the game if Sunnydale is overrun with demons or vampires (any time a vampire or demon needs to be added to the board but there is no token with which to do so) or when the total number of townies killed and player wounds reaches the end of the apocalypse track. While juggling with the lives of townies, vampires and demons, the players must also defeat three monsters of the week, gathering clues as to what is needed to kill the Big Bad. They must then defeat the big bad – requiring success on three different encounters with them. Finding the right balance between allowing townies to die, protecting them from monsters and tackling the monsters of the week requires team-work and a dash of luck.

The board game does feel like it is set in the Buffyverse and as a fan it’s very fun to play but the lack of female playable characters and an odd choice of big bads does let it down. There is a hope that Lynnvander and Jasco Games release some expansion packs soon as it would be great to turn it into something of a campaign-driven or even as a legacy game following the gang through all seven seasons of the television show.  This could easily be done by adding more scoobies as playable characters and setting additional rules – for example prohibiting the use of Willow when she is the big bad.

Overall, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a fun co-op game that offers a level of challenge that is in no way insurmountable. This isn’t an extremely punishing game, unlike say Pandemic or Forbidden Desert which are notoriously weighted against the player. This means the game is accessible for new gamers. We think this deserves a place in the gaming cupboard even if it’s not the finest example of co-op gaming.

Rating: 3.5 / 5
Reviewers: Amy-J & WedgeDoc

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